During the time when the Enterprise-D (later E) was the flagship of the fleet, was Captain Picard necessarily the officer with the most seniority (of those officers that served regularly aboard ships)? Did Jim Kirk necessarily have the most seniority during his time, since his Enterprise was the flagship?

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    IRL, the flagship captain is just that, the captain of the flagship. The admiral or commodore choses the ship they want to operate from, and it becomes the flagship. Automatically, its captain becomes the flagship captain. It would be strange to move captains from the ships they know well only to ensure that the flagship captain is the senior one (also, the senior captain might be a destroyer captain not qualified for managing a carrier). – SJuan76 Jul 30 '14 at 23:54
  • @SJuan76 So sort of like Airforce One being not a single plane but rather whatever plane the US President happens to be in (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Force_One)? – zipquincy Jul 30 '14 at 23:56
  • @zipquincy more or less (I would expect pilots to switch planes more often than ship captains switch ships). It was not unheard of fleet commanders moving to a new flagship in the middle of the battle (or shortly after it), because the original flagship was put out of action, but captains seldom were changed that quickly (except in the case of abandoning a sinking ship, of course, and then they would have no command in the ship rescuing him). – SJuan76 Jul 31 '14 at 0:09
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    In Trek the term "flagship" is used interchangeably with two completely different meanings; 1) The ship hosting the admiral or commander of a specific taskforce (e.g. the Defiant was the flagship of the Dominion Attack force) and/or 2) the most powerful ship in the fleet (e.g. the Enterprise). – Valorum Jul 31 '14 at 0:31
  • @Richard the Flaghship could also be used as the "Face of the Fleet" in this context. Seeing as there where other Galaxy class ships, and the Enterprise wasn't even the first of it's class (or was there no NCC-1700?) "most powerful ship in the fleet" could be considered subjective, but it's universally (no pun intended) the most well known ship of the Federation. – Monty129 Jul 31 '14 at 12:45

The way Starfleet uses the term 'flagship' has no bearing on the way it's used in any real navy. A flagship is the ship the admiral of a squadron or fleet rides on -- the ship carries the admiral's flag; and in the days when flags were used as signalling between ships, it was the admiral's ship from which such signals would issue! The admiral riding on that ship is in command of the fleet, while the captain of that ship remains in command of his ship.

Starfleet, however, tends not to gather together in squadrons except in extremis. Normal operation sees starships operating independently, and admirals mainly operating out of starbases, not riding ships at all. From this standpoint, in ordinary operation, Starfleet has no flagships.

Enterprise, however, dating back to NX-01, tends to a ship from whom people expect great things. Her CO is not necessarily senior -- even in the original continuity, James Kirk was one of the youngest captains in history at 30.

Interestingly, the CO of Enterprise isn't even necessarily someone Starfleet really trusts! Kirk is viewed as a maverick continually at odds with leadership; Picard, post-Borg, is viewed with suspicion.

Rather, the CO of Enterprise seems to be chosen for their ability to

  1. Pull a strong team together
  2. Make the most of that team
  3. Get things done, consistently, in a way that ultimately advances Starfleet and the Federation's interests.
  • I believe the "flagship" moniker is being used by Starfleet to mean "latest and greatest". Enterprise and TOS era Enterprises certainly fit the bill, as well as TNG's to a point. – Chahk Jul 31 '14 at 19:34
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    Except I don't believe Kirk's Enterprise actually was the flagship of the Federation... Only the Enterprise-D was actually called such onscreen – Izkata Jul 31 '14 at 23:33
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    @Chahk yes, they use it rather loosely to mean "posterchild" rather than the strict military definition. In the few cases an admiral is on board, he seems to either drop flag rank and assumes the rank of captain, replacing the actual captain who becomes FO for the episode, or is merely a passenger. – jwenting Aug 1 '14 at 15:13

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